Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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It was originally her grandfather's "gentleman's farm." The former president of Bank of America, Rudolph A. Peterson bought the land with retirement on his mind, and at the time of purchase, it was being used primarily as beef cattle pastureland, with a little coffee thrown in. Rachel, Erik, and their younger brother, Daniel (born in 1973), grew up amid experiments in coffee production and expansion. Having switched the farms over to dairy cattle—which per- forms well and continues to make up half of Esmeralda's farmland today—by 1975, the Petersons sought to diversify around the mid- 1980s, and coffee, with its rich history in the Boquete region, made perfect sense. The family acquired its first coffee-farm expansion, Palmira, in 1988, at which time, Rachel notes, coffee was still an undifferentiated, mass-market endeavor in Panama. In the 1990s, around the time a handful of North American cof- fee buyers started tossing around the terms "specialty coffee" and "microlots," the Petersons were getting the lay of the land on their newest farm, the high-altitude Jaramillo. Sadly—or fortuitous- ly—Jaramillo had been devastated by coffee-leaf rust. Walking the farms, Daniel noticed that the Geisha trees on the property seemed to have warded off the disease better than other varieties. That's why the family decided to plant Geisha on more parts of the farm, and as high as 1,650 masl, which was higher than Geisha had ever been planted outside of Ethiopia. The rest is coffee history. The Petersons shepherded Geisha onto the specialty-coffee main stage in 2004, when Hacienda La Esmer- alda's Geisha submissions in the Best of Panama competition swept the contest (and swept again in 2005, and 2006, and 2007). The Petersons went on to be the first producers to start an auction all their own in an effort to showcase specific lots and growing plots. Rather than rest on that success, the Petersons dug in even deeper, focusing on developing an infrastructure for exacting lot separation and scrupulous processing. Today, Rachel works every day in an effort to implement systems that will yield even higher scoring, and even more nuanced coffees. Rachel carefully considers her answers to questions about what's next for her family's famous farms. She's up for trying just about any experiment, and she has big dreams for how her family farms will continue to grow in esteem and quality. She truly takes things day by day, however—task by task. Rachel does not rush through things, and that ability to be patient and stay focused is one of her greatest strengths. It's been a commonality she can share with her buyers, and with visiting roasters and baristas, too. She wants them to slow down and take it in—there's a lot to see, learn, and understand when it comes to the brightest of the superstar ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE PETERSON FAMILY Clockwise from le : Erik, Price, and Rachel stand with a Charolais bull in 1972. When Rachel's grandfather bought the Panama property in 1967, it included the oldest herd of Charolais ca le in Central America. Rachel, happy farm kid. This photo shot in 1973 shows Price, Susan (holding baby Daniel), Erik, and Rachel. Of her mother, Susan, Rachel says, "My mom is defi nitely involved in the business, in all aspects, but not so much in the front lines. Her opinions and comments are very important to all of us in the family. But she is also very much involved in the local community, and has supported the Panama Handicapped Foundation for close to 40 years. She is very proactive." 100 barista magazine

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